Meet Randy Wayne White’s Hannah Smith in Gone, Deceived, and Haunted

Jul 17, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sharon Tucker

by Sharon Tucker

Sir Robert Morton: I wept today because right had been done. Catherine Winslow: Not justice? Sir Robert Morton: No, not justice. Right. Easy to do justice. Very hard to do right. —Terrence Rattigan, The Winslow Boy

If you’ve read Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford series set in southeast Florida, then you will know Hannah Smith. She’s not an academic like Ford, but rather counts herself among generations of Smith women who have blazed trails through Florida. Hannah’s knowledge comes from living in the midst of legends that sprang from her ancestors’ experiences, events, and conditions, trying her best to champion what is right without the least bit of fanfare. She has an uncluttered quality about her: she knows the water, she knows the land, she knows how to teach game fishing, and she knows how to apply what she knows to investigating her friends’ problems. In Gone (2012), Hannah searches for a friend’s missing niece; in Deceived (2013), she gets to the bottom of a real estate scam; in Haunted (2014), she looks into ghostly phenomena which has more to do with Civil War treasure than it does the supernatural.

Gone begins on the water with Hannah using her experience and skill to outrun a strong, tricky storm much to the surprise and against the advice of her clients. One of them is so impressed, in fact, that he enlists her skills in finding his missing niece. The search is far from ordinary. Prepare to meet one of the more loathsome men in fiction. My hackles rise just remembering him, and the fact that Hannah more than rises to the occasion to find and stop him despite great disadvantages is inspiring.

Not all Floridians live off hedge funds, drug proceeds, or in retirement communities as meeting Hanna’s neighbors in Deceived illustrates. She lives in a small cluster of homes whose residents are besieged by ever more urgent entreaties to support a museum to commemorate the early settlers of the area. Hannah suspects scammers are at work. What is in the works is far more complicated than anyone suspected.

Florida is home to more Civil War treasure and its mythology than most of us realize, so when in Haunted, Hannah is engaged to look into the shady sale of a Civil War era home, you may be unprepared to enter the world of treasure hunters, ghosts, and artifacts. The surprise deepens when we learn that Hannah has a journal/diary from an ancestor who commanded troops in “the War of Northern Aggression,” and that the ghost who reputedly haunts the dilapidated home under discussion may be yet another relative of hers. Here again we meet unscrupulous people intent on getting rich off the naïve, but any descriptions further would spoil how the plot unfolds.

We meet amazing characters in Hannah’s adventures, not the least of whom is Hanna Smith herself. White has good insight into what makes her tick. Her strength comes from knowledge of and respect for the country and people who raised her as well as from the insecurities that humanize her. Reading here, we get to walk around in her skin, see what she sees, and why she sees it that way. It’s a good place to be since Hannah White is a good woman in the best sense of the word.

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Sharon Tucker is former faculty at the University of Memphis in Memphis TN, and now enjoys evening supervising in that campus library. Having forsworn TV except for online viewing and her own movies, she reads an average of 3 to 4 books per week and has her first novel—a mystery, of course—well underway.


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